The Fourth Quarter

The Fourth Quarter

Posted on October 25, 2021 at 6:59 pm by Mike Best

It’s time for the truth. 

That’s not something that I’ve ever really been known for, not that I need to tell anyone that. I have always been a liar. An exaggerator. A carny, if we want to call a spade a spade. I truly am my father’s son, and if it can be spun, it shall be spun. That’s the Lee Best guarantee– a plan that came together ten minutes ago was “always the plan”, and nothing ever happens by accident in HOW. The man needs control, even if it’s just the illusion of it, and the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree with me. 

I need constant control of the narrative. 

I’ve always made it work. You put a microphone in my hands and I can sell you anything. Ice to an eskimo, and all that. The ultimate carny, just give me the stick and tell me what needs to sell out. Tell me what your version of the truth looks like, and I’ll make it so. I have managed to cover every weakness, hide every blemish, and spin every failure in my career into a positive, and you want to know the truth? It’s becoming… exhausting. 

It’s keeping me awake at night. 

I’ve been painting a picture Bottomline, when I kneed Conor Fuse in the head and called my shot as the HOW number one contender. It was a picture of a main event, and it was called “Experience versus Athleticism”. I used fine strokes and fancy paints and I filled that canvas up with the idea that at Rumble at the Rock, it wasn’t a matter of who was better… it was a matter of whether or not flippy shit and fancy moves could beat almost two decades of wrestling knowledge. And look, it was a pretty picture. It was fine art. It was good, solid heat. 

It was also fucking bullshit, wasn’t it? 

It sounds great, but you could fill anything into that blank and make it sound great if you’re good at what you do. “This isn’t about who’s better, guys! It’s about knees versus flips… it’s about youth versus wisdom… it’s about which one of us did more damage to the Kael dynasty… it’s about, it’s about, it’s about. Look, this is a wrestling match. It’s a fucking big one. And it’s about the same thing that all wrestling matches are about, so let’s just tell the truth: This match is about which one of us is better, Conor. 

And you might be better than me. 

Until you came along, I’d only ever said those words to one man, and he’s a man I have never intended to fight. If I ever said it again, I definitely didn’t mean it. Maybe a little faux humility on a podcast now and then, as you do. It’s polite to be polite, you know? But the truth is, in as long as I can remember, I haven’t faced a matchup where I really and truly believed that a guy might have my number. 

Cause hey, who’s better than Mike Best, right?

Sure, I’ve taken some L’s over the years. Who hasn’t? Jiles took a World Title off me. A bunch of guys have. You don’t become the nine time champion without losing it eight times before that, I’m not pretending that never happened. The best part about the era of HOW that I came up in was always that on any given night, anybody could beat anybody. Anyone could be king for a day. Title reigns were shorter, but they meant something. Defenses meant something. I’m not taking anything away from this era of HOW, because it has been a wild ride filled with incredible talents, but something about the old days just hits different. 

Any given night. 

On any given night, John Sektor might catch a flash in the pan and beat me for the HOW World Championship. Adonis Smyth… everyone knows that old story. I had wars with Townsend and Max, and Chris America, and you never knew who would be the better man— that night. But Townsend is gone. America is gone. Max is… gone. And slowly that era died off, guy by guy, until HOW shut its doors for three long years. Some of us old heads are still around, but everywhere I look, it’s new faces. 

Clay Byrd. 

Xander Azula. 

Conor Fuse. 

It’s kinda funny, man. I’m probably looking at you with the same eyes that guys like Kostoff looked at me with, when I first walked through that door. You see guys come and go, and you take everyone with a grain of salt. You wonder if they’ll still be here in a month. And I remember having that same thought about you backstage, the first time I saw you walk past. 

“Oh, a video game kid. Wonder if he’ll make it.”

See, HOW is like an arcade machine, Conor. They used to have these buildings where you’d go and put quarters into a video game, and see how far you could make it before you ran out of money. And kids would just pour in with bags full of quarters, looking to see who could make it the furthest. And one by one, these kids would find their threshold… find the level they just couldn’t beat, and they’d keep feeding those quarters into the machine one by one. And that was the HOW that I grew up in. That’s the HOW that made me into a man, for better for worse. Stepping up to that machine and feeding quarters in, one by one, while I watched all the other kids around me run out of money. Watched their dreams die. Watched their hopes fade. 

But not me, Conor. 

While guys like Chris Kostoff and Jatt Starr leaned against the wall and watched us play, making bets about which of us would make it, I kept feeding my quarters into that machine until eventually it stopped asking me for more money. Until I had mastered every level, every fight, every fucking pixel of that game. Until they put my name on the side of the fucking cabinet. But here I am, almost twelve years later, leaning against that same wall that Kostoff and Jatt used to place their bets, and boy did I misread you, Conor. I thought you’d run out of quarters a year ago, but you already have your face on the cover of the game. 

And it didn’t take you five years, either. 

I look at you with tired eyes, the same way that a guy like Kostoff looked at me, and I no longer wonder how long you’ll last, but how long I’ll last. How many years you’ll be here after I hang them up, smashing the records that I worked so hard to set, and writing the new chapters of a history book that will eventually do its best to forget me. Guys like Narcotic, or Darkwing, or Lynx… they only really live on in the names of LBI groups, or stories on late night drunken podcasts. There ain’t a guy on this roster not named Lee Best who could tell you a lick of anything that Narcotic did in a HOW ring, because that’s just how time works. It’s how memory works. Wrestling is a game of “what have you done for me lately”, and that’s why so many of us desperately cling to every second we can get inside of that ring. 

The Dance of Diminishing Returns. 

Silent Witness. Rhys Townsend. Christopher America. David Black. Every one of those names has appeared in HOW this era, and you probably don’t remember it. They were here for a cup of coffee, long enough to have a match or two and fade back into the history books. Jatt Starr is still here, and I meant this with no disrespect, but he’s not the Jatt Starr he used to be. Kostoff isn’t the Kostoff he used to be. Bobbinette Carey is twice the woman she used to be, but half the wrestler. Retirement feels like a disease once you get addicted to the rush, so we all just do the Dance of Diminishing Returns until one day the music stops for good. 

It’s time for us to dance, Conor. 

And for the first time, I might be facing a better dance partner. 

You probably wouldn’t know this, but I have never lost a singles match when challenging a defending champion for their title. Not once. That’s a real statistic, and one that I’m very proud of. Not just this era, but ever in the history of HOW or otherwise. I’ve never lost a singles match at Rumble at the Rock. I’ve never even lost a singles pay-per-view main event. I have always outhustled, outworked, and outwrestled champions, and I have made my entire career on the backs of stats like those— do you realize exactly what’s at stake right now, Conor? Do you realize how much more is on the line than just that championship over your shoulder?

You have a chance to take everything from me. 

And I am FUCKING. HYPE.

This isn’t just a title match, Conor. This is a match in which literally everything that I have staked my entire career on is on the line. In your hands, you hold the power to take away everything I have ever bragged about— to be the asterisk in my history book. I haven’t been pinned in five years. Never lost a singles pay-per-view main event. Never lost a singles title match as the challenger. Never MADE A CHALLENGE and then lost the match. And you have the power to take it all away. The power to do what no one else has done. The power to finally shut me the fuck up. 

I am absolutely tingling in anticipation. 

Because you might be better than me. 

For three years, I have been hyping myself up and convincing myself that guys like Bobby Dean and Darin Zion had a shot at knocking me off the mountain. Challenging guys to career matches, Death matches, anything that I could do to make every match the biggest match of my life. Anything I could do to keep my dick hard, because I am a human being that does not run efficiently without life or career threatening risk breathing down the back of my neck. 

But not you, Conor. 

You’re the real fucking deal. 

From the guy Eric Dane was too good to work an ICONIC with to the main event HOW World Champion in less than a year, and getting better every day. You move faster than me. You do your fucking homework. You put asses in seats and you wrestle your ass off. You don’t make excuses. You aren’t out there taking intentional DQs to protect your ego and your stat line. You aren’t getting cheap heat with shitty t-shirts every week, desperate for attention. You don’t cheat to win, because you don’t need to. You’re good enough on your own, but since HOW came back, I’ve never had the chance to find out if I’m good enough on my own. 

Always had the eMpire. 

Always had the Group of Death. 

Always had Cecilworth. 

I have always refused to wrestle him because I’m afraid he’ll beat me. I’ve never admitted that before, at least not out loud. He’s my heterosexual lifemate and my best friend and my soul brother, but I didn’t find any of that out until I befriended him for the same reason I befriend everybody— because they’re a threat to me. I teamed up with Cecilworth because I saw how good he could be, and I didn’t wanna have to face him. But you? You see me gunning for you, see me gunning for your title, and you didn’t suddenly come up with a brand new faction for us to join, did you? 

You looked me in the eyes and you said “fuck yeah”. 

And I’m fucking excited about that, Conor. 

For the first time in my career, I don’t want an out. I don’t want to be protected. I don’t want pennies from Heaven to jump the guardrail and hit you with a title while the referee isn’t looking. I want to get into that ring and fight for my life and my livelihood, because I want to prove that I am the greatest wrestler in history. I want to prove that I’m really as good as I’ve always said I was, and I don’t want to prove it to you, Conor. I don’t want to prove it to them

I want to prove it to myself

At Rumble at the Rock, I will give you a fair fight, not because you deserve one, but because I deserve one. I’ve been wading through tears for twelve years from people saying my Dad handed everything to me, and you know what? They’re RIGHT. He made me the number one contender. He handed me this opportunity. He’s handed me a lot of opportunities over the years. He’s handed me a lot of good excuses over the years. He’s done a lot of booking to make me look strong over the years. But this Saturday night?

I don’t want to LOOK strong. 

I want to BE strong. 

I’ve been stressing for a week about whether I should say I wouldn’t use the knee at RATR, because I thought it might save me some heat if I lose. I’ve been stressing about what it will mean for my legacy if I lose to the video game kid. I’ve been stressing, Conor, but I’m not stressing anymore. Because I realized tonight how actually excited I am for this opportunity. How actually hyped I am to face a challenge head on, without knowing whether or not I can overcome it. I didn’t leave HOFC behind for a cakewalk— if I wanted the easy route, I’d have kept smashing people in cages, talking shit and collecting a paycheck. This isn’t about saving heat. This isn’t about protecting my ego. This is about finding out which of us is better in a vacuum. This is about finding out who the better wrestler is, when it’s all on the line. 

And it’s all on the line, Conor. 

Your first HOW World Championship. 

My tenth. 

Only one of us gets to walk out of Alcatraz holding that championship, and for once in my life, I truly want it to be the better man. I’ll shake your hand when it’s over, but from the time that bell rings, I need you to prepare for war. I need you to forget about the video game puns, and the autographs, and the catchphrases. I need you to forget that your face is on the cover of the game, and stop thinking about me as the boss of world 8-4. I need you to look me in the eyes as a MAN, because I am going to TREAT you like a man. I am going to beat the ever-loving shit out of you like my entire legacy is on the line, because it is. I’m going to wrestle you like it will break my heart to lose, because it will. I’m going to fight you like I have something to prove, Conor Fuse. 

Because I do. 

To you. To my father. To the babies and morons watching worldwide, salivating at the thought of being right about me after all these years. And to myself, because I have been saying for months that if I wasn’t the best in the world anymore, then I didn’t belong here anymore. I need to know, Conor. I need to get into that ring with you and see if I still have what it takes to get the job done. I haven’t given myself that opportunity this era. I haven’t gone out into that ring and given it my all, like I did during the last era. The era where on “any given night”, anything could happen. 

I want Rumble at the Rock to feel like Any Given Night. 

You’re on the greatest trajectory of your career, and I can see in your eyes how much you love that championship. The fans are lining up to see you, you’re a hell of a draw, and your name is up in the lights, and it’s all about that championship around your waist. You want this as badly as I do. The result of this match might not prove on paper which one of us is truly the better wrestler, but it’ll prove something to the two men standing in that ring when it’s over, and that’s all I can ask. All I can ask is for a fight. All I can ask is that we both give it everything that we have. That you do whatever you have to do to keep it, because I’ll do whatever I have to do to win it. And if you do that for me, Conor, thenI think that this is going to make for the single greatest main event in the history of HOW. 

It’s the video game kid versus the King of the Arcade, Conor. 

Let’s see if I have any quarters left.